Dube AgriLab

Dube AgriZone has a highly sophisticated and ultra-modern 5 300 m2 plant tissue culture laboratory and hardening facility, Dube AgriLab.

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Dube AgriLab, operated by Dube TradePort Corporation, is a purpose-built micro-propagation facility located in KwaZulu-Natal. The laboratory supplies high quality disease-free, true-to-type young plants through tissue culture under sterile conditions. Dube AgriLab has the ability to develop and refine protocols in-house and has the capacity to produce most plant varieties.  Accordingly, the AgriLab is set to service the plant propagation needs of the KwaZulu-Natal farming community and, given its advantageous location adjacent to King Shaka International Airport and Dube Cargo Terminal, Dube AgriLab is ideally positioned to service  national and international farmers and professional growers.

As the only commercial tissue culture laboratory in KwaZulu-Natal, Dube AgriLab currently has the capacity to produce more than 3 million plantlets a year with a planned expansion which is set to grow the capacity to 5 million per annum.  

Dube AgriLab comprises a tissue culture laboratory, hardening facility and a dispatch area.  The laboratory consists of a large cleanroom, with three individually insulated transfer rooms and three individually climate-controlled grow rooms; as well as a medium preparation area and washing facilities. It also incorporates a state-of-the-art heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system, which delivers High-Efficiency Particulate Arrestance (HEPA) filtered air to each transfer and grow room, which is positively pressurised to avoid contamination from external sources or cross-contamination internally.

The AgriLab’s hardening facility comprises two climate controlled zones, one for weaning micro-plants from tissue culture, and another for growing on these plantlets to customer’s specifications.  This facility is designed with strict phytosanitary measures in mind, such as virus netting over all vents, double doors and UV sterilisation of irrigation water. The facility is fitted with ebb and flood benches, which reduces water and fertiliser consumption by more than 30%. The whole facility utilises rain water harvesting along with the greenhouses within the AgriZone precinct.

Solar panels cover the AgriLab roof, reducing the facility's dependence on fossil fuel energy by 20% on average. Furthermore, in the event of a power outage all the critical infrustructure such as the grow and hardening rooms, HVAC as well as HEPA systems are fully serviced by backup power generators in order to preserve the sterile conditions within the lab and prevent any contamination and loss of stock.

Dube AgriLab prides itself on innovation and has recently adopted a new Temporary Immersion System (TIS) for producing tissue cultured plants more efficiently.  Specialised packaging and hardening trays are also used with the aim of reducing the environmental impact and increasing quality and service excellence to customers.

Dube AgriLab gives consideration to requests for contract propagation from local professional growers and farmers and is perfectly positioned to undertake complex research and development work into the future.

Current Projects

  • NovaCane® Project: Dube AgriLab, working with the South African Sugarcane Research Institute (SASRI), is in a position to release selected varieties to sugarcane farmers. Through NovaCane®, Dube AgriLab is not only able to propagate higher volumes of seed cane from newly released varieties, but - through the micro-propagation process - is able to provide top-performing, disease-free material, independently verified to be true-to-type.
  • Export Project: Dube AgriLab has initiated exports of NovaCane®, most notably into the north of Africa. Plantlets are exported free of pests and disease, thus meeting all phytosanitary requirements and packed in such a way as to ensure excellent survival rates during transit.
  • Ornamental Plant Production: Dube AgriLab is actively producing young plants for tenants of Dube TradePort and organisations beyond the precinct's boundaries.
  • New Developments: Dube AgriLab is currently involved in research and development activities involving sub-tropical fruit, as well as crops for the forestry industry.

Benefits of Micro-Propagation

Micro-propagation is ideal for high-volume vegetative propagation, the propagation of high-value, scarce plants and elite selections or cultivars, plants which might be difficult to propagate by other means, or plants used for breeding purposes and research.

It involves taking small explants, buds or shoot tip meristems from selected mother plants that are pre-treated and cleaned of any visible and known contaminants. Explants are inoculated onto sterilized growing medium in a sealed culture vessel. These are then cultured in environmentally-controlled grow rooms where the initial explants regrow new shoots which may then be propagated as micro-cuttings, using sterile techniques and ensuring that no contaminants are able to enter or be propagated amongst the cultures. Very small cuttings or divisions may be made under these conditions, resulting in exceptionally high propagation rates.